Monday, December 03, 2007

Workshop on the Use of Multiple Measures for Education Accountability

On Nov. 16, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) hosted a workshop on the use of "multiple measures." This Workshop on the Use of Multiple Measures for Education Accountability was hosted by the Committee on Incentives and Test-Based Accountability for Public Education, which is housed within the NAS. This workshop is part of ongoing activities that will ultimately yield a report that summarizes relevant research and its implications to be shared with policymakers. Ideally, the report will inform current debates about changing the many federal and state policies related to the use of test-based incentives to improve K-12 public education. The report is expected in the spring 2008.

NAS, Capitol Hill staff, Department of Education staff, university officials and other noted experts gathered to discuss Department of Education and congressional perspectives on including multiple measures in NCLB, appropriate uses of multiple measures, current state systems using multiple measures and policy arguments for and against multiple measures.

The first panel featured congressional staff, including Roberto Rodriguez with Se. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.); Lindsay Hunsicker with Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.); Jill Morningstar with Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.); and Keri Briggs from the Department of Education. Briggs began the discussion by providing an overview of multiple measures and its place in the debate surrounding the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), as well as a number of options for using them under current law. Briggs noted, however, that most states do not have the capacity to implement them successfully.

All of the congressional staff expressed interest in incorporating multiple measures in the upcoming NCLB reauthorization, but it was clear from their comments that "the devil is in the details." Since the House Education and Labor Committee released a NCLB draft reauthorization bill earlier this year, Morningstar was able to provide the most definitive comments of the congressional staff on the panel. She discussed how the House draft allows a small percentage of the adequate yearly progress (AYP) calculation to incorporate the use of multiple measures. She noted that the committee is still working through the details and would welcome any help and/or suggestions in their efforts to get it right.

The last set of panelists agreed that one type of assessment simply is not enough to determine AYP. Panelists suggested that data from multiple assessments need to be available to teachers and schools in a timely way so improvements are based on the data and the teaching methods.

Kati Haycock from Education Trust noted there seems to be a lot of confusion about "what we want to know about a school and what we need to know about a school" when determining if the school is "good enough." She believes multiple assessments are needed for an accurate portrait of the academic achievement of all students. Gitomer agreed with Haycock, saying, "No single test can provide an accurate portrait of students and schools."

Dan Fuller from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development suggested adjusting the AYP model to incorporate multiple measures of assessment, including growth models, formative assessments, grade-point averages, student exhibitions, AP and IB courses and portfolio assessments. He opined that the current AYP model is flawed, and ASCD is opposed to a single assessment of reading and math skills as an indicator of performance.

Concluding the discussion for the day, William Taylor with the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights strongly suggested that schools need assessments around creativity, teamwork and analytical skills. He believes the current testing system is inadequate and needs reform. He also argued that the law should not permit untested and untried indicators to play any role in determining whether schools and districts have made AYP.

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